In a volte-face, less than 48 hours after he made his remarks, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray on Friday put on hold his agitation against migrant auto-rickshaw drivers. Thackeray, issuing a statement, asked his cadre to not attack any auto-rickshaws till he issues fresh instructions.
This came even as chief minister Devendra Fadnavis rubbished Thackeray’s allegations of corruption in issuing permits, saying that the government had not bent any rules. “People are constantly looking to make their own space in politics and hence, make such statements. It is our responsibility to protect the auto drivers and we definitely will do so,” he said.
Some party leaders hinted that Thackeray had jumped the gun. “We realised later that these new autos that have been granted to migrants by flouting the rules have yet to hit the streets. Hence, rather than someone misusing the agitation and vandalising existing autos, we decided to put the agitation on hold,” said a party leader.
Thackeray, through the statement, also asked his cadre to not take the law into their hands by indulging in violence. Many find this ironic, considering Thackeray himself had, on Wednesday asked his cadre to find new auto-rickshaws in the city and burn them down. He had alleged that the permits to drive these were being given to migrants by flouting norms.
Insiders said that Thackeray’s staying off the agitation may have been a result of the lack of enthusiasm shown by the cadre. For instance, the first time he announced a violent agitation on the issue of irregularities in toll tax contracts, across the state, toll plazas were attacked within hours. This time, one auto-rickshaw was burnt in 36 hours after his call, but the MNS ran too scared of even taking the credit for it.
Thackeray’s stand and his call for violence against migrant auto-rickshaw drivers also earned him immense flak on social media, with many calling for action against him.
Meanwhile, the largest autorickshaw union in Mumbai Friday wrote to CM Fadnavis, demanding immediate action against Thackeray for his provocative remarks wherein he appealed to party workers to “burn the autorickshaws of outsiders”.